The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) annually puts together a flood preparedness plan in anticipation of high levels of rainfall, especially during the summer rainfall period. This plan in the main is meant to enhance monitoring of rainfall, inflows into rivers and dams as well as to raise alarm bells timeously in case of impending danger through floods.
The Tropical Cyclone Eloise has been in the region, that is SADC for a while and has mainly been over the island states with the possibility of hitting Mozambique, with initial indications being that it would impact primarily Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana with very little impact on South Africa if any.
The reality that is unfolding is that there will be impact on the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The resultant floods could also affect KwaZulu-Natal. The Cyclone has been upgraded to a Category 2 storm. It was expected to reach the coastal town of Beira in Mozambique this morning.
The DWS rain gauges have not as yet indicated any rainfall in North East of Limpopo and Mpumalanga but rather cloud cover over the same areas. The DWS has done planning for possible risks in this regard from Hydrological, Operations and Construction perspectives considering the kind of infrastructure the DWS is responsible for. Where gaps were identified, immediate actions were put in place to address these.
From the department's point, a number of high risk areas were identified. These include Tzaneen, Blyderivierpoort, Klaserie, Nandoni and Albasini Dams. Relevant DWS officials have been actioned to apply the necessary measures to monitor and manage these areas very closely. There are also teams on standby to respond to any situation that might arise.
Part of the teams' responsibilities will include on-going engagement and information to stakeholders that might be affected within the identified areas. These interactions will include cautions/alerts when the possibility or reality of dam sluices/gates being opened to release water and reduce pressure on the infrastructure. The releases could lead to possibilities of flooding downstream of the dam/s. it is always important that those that operate downstream of dams respond quickly and positively to any and all warnings of possible flooding. This will reduce loss of lives, livestock for farmers, property and equipment which could be moved in time.
While Tropical Storm Eloise will impact mainly Limpopo and Mpumalanga, the DWS would like to also remind those within the Vaal and Orange River Systems that it is still important for everyone to be vigilant. The Gariep (the biggest dam in the country) and the Vanderkloof (the second biggest) are already full and spilling, with the Bloemhof also at capacity. The high inflows into the country's biggest dams has meant that the possibility of flooding in the area remains.
The prediction of rainfall is unreliable. Therefore, the release of water from these dams is not top of mind at the moment. It is critically important for all those that would be affected by such floods to already begin moving away from the flood lines. The DWS will continue to raise awareness as days go by.
The main objectives for the DWS are:
Ensure the safety of infrastructure (dams)
Ensure at least 100% full dams at the end of the flood.
The Tropical Cyclone Eloise that is about to hit the country will be a difficult test for the DWS flood preparedness but the Department remains steadfast in the belief and trust of the DWS Flood Preparedness Plan.